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MailTribune.com
  • Ducks, Beavers in top 10. Wait, what?

    Surprising Oregon State joins in-state rival Oregon in top 10 for first time since 2001 season
  • CORVALLIS — Oregon may be that rainy outpost of the Pacific Northwest far removed from SEC country, but the state has two teams ranked in the top 10.
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  • CORVALLIS — Oregon may be that rainy outpost of the Pacific Northwest far removed from SEC country, but the state has two teams ranked in the top 10.
    The No. 2 Ducks and the No. 7 Beavers are the highest-ranked duo from a single state in the current AP Top 25.
    "It's really cool," Oregon State fan Kurt Peters said after last weekend's game. "Of course, I still hate the Ducks."
    OK, so the statewide pride only goes so far.
    Before this season, the last time the two teams were both ranked in the top 10 was in 2001, when Oregon State was No. 10 and Oregon was No. 7 after the opening week of the season.
    The only other time the Beavers and Ducks have both been ranked in the top seven was the final poll of the 2000 season. Oregon State finished fourth and Oregon was seventh.
    As it stands now, Oregon State and Oregon are the only undefeated teams in the Pac-12.
    The Beavers (6-0, 4-0) are one of the nation's biggest surprises of the season.
    Oregon State went just 3-9 last season, its worst finish since 1997, and the team missed out on the postseason for the second straight year. It was completely understandable when they were selected to finish last in the Pac-12's northern division.
    The Beavers missed their opener against Nicholls State because of concerns about Hurricane Isaac's impact on the Louisiana school's players, so they started the season a week late against No. 13 Wisconsin, a team that blanked them 35-0 last season.
    The Beavers beat the Badgers 10-7 and ever since they've been on a roll. Now Oregon State plays Washington on Saturday at CenturyLink Field. The Huskies (3-4, 1-3) have lost three straight after a 17-13 upset of then-No. 8 Stanford.
    Oregon State is also the feel-good story of the season under easygoing head coach Mike Riley, who had critics calling for his dismissal last season. This season he's grabbed attention for treating his team to In-N-Out double-double hamburgers after road wins.
    Part of the credit for Oregon State's success goes to quarterbacks Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz, who have kept the Beavers steady during their season-opening streak.
    Mannion, a sophomore who took a lot of knocks last season but emerged as one of the league's best drop-back passers, will return as starter against the Huskies this weekend after missing two games with a left knee injury. Vaz, a junior, capably filled in while Mannion was hurt and helped the Beavers to victories against BYU and Utah.
    Ducks fan Jim Cooper of Beaverton has grudging respect for the Beavers.
    "The Ducks are stronger, we have the experience. As well as the Beavers are doing this year, and I'm happy for them, they really tanked it last year. They absorbed a lot of losses," Cooper said. "But Mike Riley, in playing those kids through some real hard times got them some experience in the trenches and it's paying off for them this season."
    While the Beavers are delivering the unexpected, the Ducks are staying the course. With its speedy spread offense, Oregon is 7-0 overall and 4-0 in the Pac-12.
    The Ducks have won 10 straight dating back to last season, second in the nation only to Alabama with 11. Oregon has scored at least 42 points in each of those 10 wins.
    The Ducks are favored by more than six touchdowns this Saturday when they host Colorado (1-6, 1-3). Many fans are looking past the Buffs toward Oregon's game the next weekend against No. 10 USC at the Coliseum. Last season the Trojans came to Autzen Stadium and upset the No. 4 Ducks 38-35. Matt Barkley threw for 323 yards and four touchdowns in the victory.
    Should both Oregon and Oregon State keep winning, it will set up an epic clash in the Civil War rivalry game on Nov. 24, which would decide the team that represents the north in the Pac-12 championship on Nov. 30.
    The winner of the title game gets to represent the league in the Rose Bowl — unless the team is ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the BCS standings, which will send the winner to the BCS championship.
    So, theoretically, if the Ducks win the Pac-12 title game but go to the national championship, the Beavers could be the league's representative in their first Rose Bowl since 1965.
    But that's getting ahead of ourselves. It all depends on how the next month shakes out. The Ducks play three of their last four on the road. In addition to the Trojans, the Ducks host No. 19 Stanford on Nov. 17.
    The Beavers, who don't have USC on their schedule this season, face a challenge when they visit the Cardinal on Nov. 10.
    Beavers coach Riley hasn't really had time to think about the rival Ducks.
    "We haven't done well in the last couple of years, so I don't have any secrets about what to do with Oregon," Riley said. "And I haven't thought about them too much to this point."
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